The man that was in the reflection of his pint of lager, looked a lot like him but was not him. He was sure of that much. The pub bustled around him as he allowed himself to drift off into the dreamworld. He felt safer there.
The scraping of a chair beside him brought him out of the peaceful state and although he did try to hide his disgust at the interruption, he was pretty sure that he had not succeeded.
“I hope you don’t mind me sitting here? I cannot find any spare seats.”
The voice belonged to a man that looked as if he belonged to another age. The clothes were from now but the mannerisms and demeanor marked him as being from another time altogether. He gestured for the man to sit down and was pleased when the well manicured man pulled out a newspaper. Conversation was the last thing on his mind just now.
Reaching the dreamworld was made more difficult due to the increased noise of the pub. This allowed thoughts to get in the way. With thoughts came memories. With memories came….well nothing good.
How long had he been living the same routine now? Twenty years? Longer? He could not remember clearly. All he was certain of was that the routine had shaped him into the man he was today. A middle aged bore that spent his days at work and the evenings in the pub. Alone in both places, despite the people around him. The nights were the worst though. Dreams full of fantastical adventures and a life that was the polar opposite to what he was living. He would often wake in the early hours, feeling his heart beating hard within his chest and in that split second between the dream vanishing and reality replacing it, he felt alive.
Not this half life that he had been living for so long, crashing from one glimpse of happiness to another, with longer and longer gaps in between. If he was not so scared he would mess it up, he would have taken his own life years ago. Anything was better than this.
Last nights dream popped into his mind. He had been at a function in a hotel he had never been to and had a fling with a cabaret singer that he had never seen before. The feeling of closeness had cloaked him even after he awoke. The initial feeling of euphoria soon giving way to loneliness and prevented him from getting back to sleep. He could not place the woman or the situation at all. If the unconscious mind had merely replayed events from his recent memories, he could not place them.
“Sorry to interrupt old boy, ” The well manicured man had lowered his paper and was speaking, “This is a very weird thing to ask a complete stranger but…”
He paused as his eyes looked elsewhere, embarrassed by what he was about to say.
“Have you ever felt that there was more to life than this?”
A flicker of recognition flashed across the mans eyes and although he did not reply, the well manicured man saw it and immediately relaxed.
“You have? Oh thank God. I thought it may have only been me.” He laughed to himself before continuing. “I have been doing the same job for god only knows how long and yet I feel nothing for it. I have fallen into a routine that just drives me mad. Yet every night I dream of another man, I remind myself of him. He is this dashing military officer going out and living life to the full.”
The man raised his hand to stop him.
“Are you taking the piss?”
The well manicured man was stunned.
“Not at all dear boy, it is just…”
He noticed the hand signal again and stopped. For a long time the man studied him, looking for the tell, the glimmer of a joke. How could someone have described exactly what he himself had been experiencing. A complete stranger no less.
“What is your name?”
The well manicured man relaxed slightly.
The man took a long draught of his pint and then, wiping his lips with the back of his hand, continued the conversation.
“What you have just said is exactly how i have been feeling and what I have been experiencing. That means that this is either a very cruel joke, or…or something else?”
The lights dimmed slightly causing both men to look around. No-one else seemed to notice.
When he looked back at the well manicured man, it was another who sat there. Nothing at all like the man who he had been speaking to. His head buried in a book and his headphones in.
Too much to drink, the man thought, I’m imagining things now. He finished his pint and left the pub behind him. The short walk to his house woke him up again and by the time he reached his front door, he felt strangely sober.
Locking the door behind him he ventured to his bed, climbing the stairs slowly, confused by the nights events. As he ascended, he passed the only picture frame hanging on the stairwell. Inside was a certificate that stated that he owned a little bit of Scottish land. It had been a gift from someone lost to the mists of time and he was not sure why he kept it hanging up.
Closing the bedroom door, he did not bother switching the light on. He was tired and another day was just the other side of sleep.